Saturday, July 31, 2010

QSL Bureau

Getting a drop from the ARRL bureau is always a nice surprise. Being active in Alaska, these envelopes can get pretty thick. Like a kid at Christmas, I thumb through all of the cards looking at each which has the personal touch of the owner. 

With the advent of electronic QSL'ing, many expected hard copy QSL's to dwindle to a drip. I still receive many hard copy QSL cards so the old fashioned way of QSL'ing is still alive and strong. I order 500 at a time and I normally like to change mine each time I order. I enjoy each and every QSL card I get no matter if it's a photo QSL card or just a stand alone stock card. I normally see a handful that really stand out
and I see who printed them for future reference. Most printers put their information on the cards and it's a great way to advertise your business to other hams. Some of the creativity that goes into these QSL cards is outstanding. And as with anything in the world today, the more colors or additions you put on a QSL card, the more expensive it can get.

I enjoy photography so I now place one of my own pictures on the front of my QSL card. Living in Alaska gives me many opportunities to take lots of photos of wildlife and landscapes and some of those photos (thanks to digital photography) are good enough for displaying on a QSL card that will end up being sent to thousands of hams worldwide. With the large amount of digital photos I have accumulated after living here for over 7 years, it can be a hard decision which to use on my next QSL card. I want to make it worthy of being posted in someone's shack or seen on the wall when a ham's photo appears in a magazine (you are like me and look in the background to see if you can spot your QSL card, right?). 
I have each and every QSL card that I have received since getting into ham radio well over 20 years ago. I also have a nice collection of airmail envelopes and stamps from direct QSL'ing. I don't do much direct QSL'ing (I answer all, but I don't send much out myself) as I rely on LOTW confirmations for most of my awards. Someday I will probably have to submit hard copy QSL's to add to my electronic confirmations but until that time, I let the cards flow to me rather then sending hoards out after each and every contest looking for confirmations of new countries or states. 
 I still get many SWL cards and I make sure to respond to each and every one of those as well. Most of those are received via the bureau. The bureau is a cheap way of sending and receiving QSL cards but it can take several years to receive a card via this route. Recently I got one of my cards returned to me with a stamp on it stating the ham was now a silent key. Some hams chose not to use their bureau but for us here in the US, it's just a matter of keeping envelopes at your incoming bureau. To send them, you can send several hundred cards for cheap which is still a great deal with today's economy.
I scanned these handful of QSL cards that I recently received which were only a few of the probably 150 I got in my envelope. I'm thankful for the volunteers who keep the bureau system alive and well. I do get many direct QSL card requests and as a stamp collector, this can be double fun. Getting a new state or country and then getting a new stamp to add to my collection of many years. 
 I have many favorites of the cards I have collected over the years and at some point in time, I have plans of putting together an album of these cards. They will represent all of the countries that I have worked over the years and also those cards that stood out above the rest either due to a memorable contact or just a beautiful photo on the front of the QSL card. I can only hope my QSL card is in someone's album or on someone's wall as to me, that is the ultimate culmination of a ham radio contact. 

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